The Amsterdam Drone Week is an umbrella event that proposes to connect the entire Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) value chain through a range of events related to emerging drone technologies and solutions.
Aimed at promoting drone-powered businesses, currently worth around $127.3 billion, this European platform seeks to bring together the best minds of the UAV (Unmanned aerial vehicle) industry.
On Tuesday (Nov 27) – day two of the first edition of this b2b event – Audi, Airbus and Italdesign demoed a 1:4 scaled-down prototype of the Pop.Up Next flying taxi – a modular concept that seeks to combine the best of two contemporary technologies to give you a single “drive-fly-drive” package for your daily commute.
You won’t be wrong if you call it ‘a car that flies’ or ‘a flying machine that drives’ because, effectively, that’s exactly what it is.
Thank you to all partners and visitors for being part of the first edition of Amsterdam Drone Week. Take a look at some images we took – more to come! We hope to see you next year! https://t.co/zS7IoGFztc #AMSdroneweek pic.twitter.com/7PBoAan6Fb
— Amsterdam Drone Week (@Amsterdamdrone) November 29, 2018
Basically, the Pop.Up Next comprises:
1. A road module that consists of a battery-powered skateboard platform and a detachable two-passenger carbon fiber pod that sits on it. The pod is designed by Audi and its subsidiary Italdesign.
2. A battery-powered flight module with eight counter-rotating rotors, designed and developed by Airbus.
The common factor between the two modules is the pod, which is both driven as well as flown.
Here’s how the concept works, as was shown in the Amsterdam Drone Week demonstration of the prototype.
The passenger pod rides along on the skateboard chassis on ground, like any other EV would do, and when its time to take to the air, the VTOL-capable flight module flies over and lands.
The ground module drives and parks under it so that the drone is actually straddling it.
The chassis raises the pod, which detaches from the ground unit and locks on to the flight module.
The drone, then, lifts off with the pod, flies to the intended destination and lands for another ground module, that’s waiting at the site, to move under it and receive the pod.
Once the pod is locked in place, the ground vehicle autonomously drives away with it, leaving the drone behind to take to the air again, probably for its next pick up and drop job.
Check out the entire demo sequence in this video.
While the demo of the scaled-down prototype was spot-on, it remains to be seen if the same level of success can be achieved on a full-scale real-world version, which Audi says is the next target in its scheme of things.
Audi board member for sourcing and IT, and president of the Audi subsidiary Italdesign, Dr. Bernd Martens, says that Audi is convinced that flying taxis are a reality of the future.
“Flying taxis are on the way. We at Audi are convinced of that,” Martens said in a statement.
“More and more people are moving to cities. And more and more people will be mobile thanks to automation,” he said.
“In future, senior citizens, children and people without a driver’s license will want to use convenient robot taxis. If we succeed in making a smart allocation of traffic between roads and airspace, people and cities can benefit in equal measure,” Martens added.
To test the viability of an on-demand service of the Pop.Up Next kind, Audi is running tests in South America in collaboration with Airbus subsidiary Voom, which claims to be “the world’s most affordable on-demand helicopter booking platform.”
While Voom customers book helicopter services in Mexico City or Sao Paulo, Audi is on standby to transport passengers to and from the landing site.
“Services like this help us to understand our customers’ needs better. Because in the future, flying taxis will appeal to a wide range of city dwellers,” says Dr. Martens.
“With Pop.Up Next we are simultaneously exploring the boundaries of what is technically possible, he said. “The next step is for a full-size prototype to fly and drive.”
Another initiative that Audi is actively supporting is the Urban Air Mobility flying taxi project in Ingolstadt, by making its facility available for test operations of a flying taxi.
The initiative is part of a joint project of the European Union in the framework of the marketplace for the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities.
It is aimed at convincing the public about the advantages of the new technology and address queries and concerns related to battery technology, regulation, certification, and infrastructure.
Here are some twitter reactions to Pop.Up Next.
I find autonomous vehicles concepts quite dreadful, killing the pleasure of driving. But this one combining a drone is something to see.
— Balint (@Balintweet) November 28, 2018
This is where an engineering mindset and degree would be helpful. Are flying, vertical takeoff, taxi-drones really going to be darkening our skies and freeing up streets for pedestrians and transit? See Audi's latest concept. https://t.co/1C7qa9oAUz
— DriverlessRevolution (@DriverlessRev) November 29, 2018
Flying taxi would take-off from a charging station, zero in on the vehicle & latch onto its roof, then the passenger cabin would detach from the sled to be carried freely by quadcopter for up to 30 mi #FlyingCars https://t.co/AsEoB2pVrE via @nwtls
— Mike Ferraro (@ferraro_mike7) November 28, 2018
Hailing a taxi of the sky: Drone-car hybrid takes flight and provides a glimpse into the future of transport
Pop Up Next' prototype was driven and hovered across an exhibition hall
It is made up of a chassis with wheels, a two-seat capsule and a four-rotor drone pic.twitter.com/WNU1akPHR1
— Nico Spalato (@NikeSpalato) November 28, 2018